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Civil rights group outraged after Canadian province looks to introduce ‘unexplained wealth’ seizure law

'Unexplained Wealth Orders could be used to confiscate property where there is no evident legitimate source of funds.’

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 civil liberty group is sounding the alarm after British Columbia’s New Democratic Party (NDP) Premier David Eby announced a forthcoming new law that would permit the government to take away one’s property or goods prior to being charged with a crime.  

The soon-to-be introduced “unexplained wealth order” (UWO) was announced by Eby on Sunday as part of a broader “public safety plan.” The government says the law is intended to target gangs and criminals who “profit on misery,” but experts warn that such a law would be a severe “infringement” on one’s constitutional rights as defined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 

“The BCCLA (British Columbia Civil Liberties Association) believes that UWOs are an unnecessary expansion of government power,” the organization said in a statement, adding that such measures are “an unacceptable infringement of Canadians’ rights to the presumption of innocence, due process and privacy.”

While the full details of the UWO won’t be released until next year when it is formally presented to the province’s legislature, the NDP government has already attempted to justify the proposal by saying that the law would help deal with young people [who] are attracted to gang life by images of fast cars, fancy homes and luxury goods.

By seizing this property from high-level, predatory criminal organizations and individuals, the province can take away this incentive and send a clear message to organized crime,” the government added.

UWOs as a concept originated in British Columbia following a 2019recommendation from an Expert Panel on Money Laundering in BC Real Estate. 

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